A satellite image of the Type 003 aircraft carrier taken on the afternoon of June 14 shows that water injection has begun in the dock where the aircraft carrier is located Source: Planet Labs
The image in question was taken at 7:21 AM Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on June 14, or 3:21 PM local time in Shanghai. According to the photos, water has begun to be injected in the large dry dock where the Type 003 aircraft carrier is located. At the same time, the various pipes and most of the shelter sheds on the flight deck of the carrier, which is undergoing the final stage of construction, have been removed, leaving only three sheds covering the installation location of the carrier’s electromagnetic catapult. The carrier is already full of flags and has other similar signs and other celebratory decorations in preparation.
China is the second country after the USA and first in Asia to install electro magnetic catapult system in their aircraft carrier.
The Drive website reported that about two weeks ago, the Shanghai Maritime Safety Bureau issued an announcement to remove five other merchant ships located in the same dock area, which is believed to be preparations for the launch of the aircraft carrier.
The Type 003 aircraft carrier is the second domestic aircraft carrier built by China and is about to become China’s third aircraft carrier. Regarding the growing strength of the Chinese navy, The Drive website also commented with ulterior motives that the Type 003 aircraft carrier is “the key to China’s efforts to expand and improve its overall military capabilities, as well as to project this power beyond its borders.” The basis for this judgment is that the Type 003 aircraft carrier adopts a different design of the catapult takeoff/blocking ship mode than the two aircraft carriers in active service of the People’s Liberation Army.
The Chinese Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Type 001 Liaoning, was built from the Soviet-built unfinished aircraft carrier Varyag, and the first domestically produced aircraft carrier, the Type 002 Shandong, was an improved model based on the former design. Both carriers take off/block the ship in the form of a skid-jump take-off/blocker and are not equipped with catapults.
Electromagnetic catapults can greatly increase the payload of an aircraft and also make carrier-based aircraft designs more possible. The Type 003 aircraft carrier uses electromagnetic catapults instead of traditional steam catapults (Used US & French Navy). According to the experience of the U.S. Navy’s Ford class, electromagnetic catapults can theoretically reduce the maintenance and cost of carrier-based aircraft during take-off, expanding the range of carrier-based aircraft that catapults can use, including ejecting lighter unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Type 003 aircraft carrier will almost certainly carry newer carrier-based aircraft, including the J-35 stealth carrier-based aircraft and the KJ-600 carrier-based early warning aircraft currently under development by China. They are very similar to the U.S. Navy’s F-35 fighter jet and E-2 Hawkeye AWACS aircraft, respectively.
At the same time, J-15T fighters and J-15D electronic warfare aircraft may also take off from the Type 003 aircraft carrier. As a U.S. website, “The Drive” attributes this similarity to the formation of the Chinese carrier-based aircraft force combination “mimicking” the formation of the future U.S. carrier-based aircraft wing, but at the same time points out that the Chinese navy also needs to equip its aircraft carriers and other ships with various drone platforms.
However It may take several years to enter full service after the Official Launch of the Type 003 aircraft carrier, and it will take considerable time to master and use an electromagnetic catapult to take off from ship. The U.S. military recently publicly predicted that the ship could enter service in 2024. In this regard, the “The Drive” website commented that in any case, the launch of the Type 003 aircraft carrier will undoubtedly become a crucial step in the Chinese Navy’s road to enhancing its own aircraft carrier strength.